Wyoming’s pronghorn populations have been declining rapidly in the last ten years and a coalition of groups including the University of Wyoming and Game and Fish are trying to figure out why. In 2010, there were over 500,000 pronghorn in the state. Today, that number has dropped to a little more than 400,000.
Jeff Beck is an associate professor of Ecosystems Science and Management at UW. Last November, he and a team of scientists took to the field to figure out why. They helicopter-netted 130 pronghorns in three test areas of the Red Desert.
The Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial approval to a bill that would provide more funding to the State Game and Fish Department.
The bill would, for the first time, allow health insurance for Game and Fish employees to be paid for by the state. Until now, that’s been covered by the Department. It would also help cover the Department's costs for managing the state's Grizzly Bear population. The total impact to the state budget is estimated to be around seven million dollars a year.
The State Senate approved additional funding for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, but not without discussion.
The bill provides $14 million for the department to pay for health insurance and grizzly management. It’s intended to address financial issues within the Department, after a hunting license fee increase was defeated last year.
Senator Phil Nicholas says the fee hike was defeated because the Game and Fish has incurred the wrath of those who pay the fees.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved nearly five million dollars in budget cuts that were necessary after the legislature failed to approved an increase in game and fish license fees. The department is funded 80 percent by license fees and was already dealing with a deficit when the fee hikes were voted down. But lawmakers wanted the Game and Fish Department to be more efficient. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck has more.
BOB BECK: The cuts were approved at a recent Game and Fish Commission meeting in Saratoga and many were unhappy.
Starting on April 15, all boats entering Wyoming will have to be inspected to ensure that they’re not carrying any aquatic invasive species.
Until now, inspections were only required for boats that had been in waters that were known to be infested. But Beth Bear with the Game and Fish Department says they were worried that boaters could be in infested waters without knowing it.
She says invasives like zebra mussels can cause major problems.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to remove non-native fish from a stream in the Bighorn National Forest, in order to restore a native fish that has nearly died out.
The agency would use a chemical to kill off brook trout and then re-stock the stream with Yellowstone cut-throat trout, which are native to Wyoming.
Assistant Fisheries Management Coordinator Mark Smith says cut-throats have not been able to compete with brook trout, which were introduced to the state in the 1930s. He says nearly 90 percent of the cut-throats in the Bighorns have died off already.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking state legislators to vote on two bills that would add funding to the agency in 2014. The first bill would raise license fees for hunters and anglers. The second bill would establish a raffle for big game and trophy hunts.
The Department’s Eric Keszler says they’ve already cut down their budget where they could.
It’s hunting season, and in northwest Wyoming it’s also the time of year when bears – especially grizzlies – are more active as they prepare for the winter. Because of this, the Wyoming Game and Fish office in Cody is urging people to be cautious about bear encounters.
Spokeswoman Tara Teaschner says people should hunt with a partner, and if they get a kill, they need to be especially alert.
Starting next year, all boats that enter Wyoming will have to be inspected, to make sure they’re not carrying any aquatic invasive species.
Until now, boats had to be inspected if they passed by an open inspection station, or if they had been in a body of water that was known to host invasive species. But Beth Bear with the Game and Fish Department says under that system, many boats went un-checked.
Bear says Game and Fish is trying to make it easy for boat owners to comply with the new rules.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking all Wyoming residents to report dead sage grouse they find so the birds can be tested for West Nile virus.
Sage grouse have low resistance to the disease and it usually kills infected birds.
Tom Christiansen with Game and Fish says there is no sign yet of an outbreak in the state this year.A recent limited survey in the Powder River Basin detected only low numbers of a particular type of mosquito known to carry the disease.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved the state’s wolf management plan. It allows wolves to be shot on site in most of the state, with hunting seasons scheduled for an area in northwest Wyoming.
Governor Matt Mead says they are awaiting another peer review by scientists, but they have made some adjustments to hunting regulations that he hopes will make the plan more palatable to critics. Mead remains hopeful that Wyoming’s congressional delegation will keep the management plan from being delayed by the courts. But he believes the plan will stand up to any scrutiny.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will meet this week in Casper to consider setting a hunting season for wolves for the coming fall.
The commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Casper. It has been holding public meetings around the state on the proposed gray wolf management hunting rules.
Seasons and license quotas for all big game species, including wild bison, will be established. In addition, the commission will set seasons for upland and early migratory birds and small game as well as turkey seasons for the fall 2012 and spring 2013 hunts.
The Game and Fish Department has drawn up a new management plan for mule deer in the Platte Valley. The herd there has been declining for some time, and the management plan is aimed at reversing that trend.
The plan includes measures to limit mule deer hunting, improve the animals’ habitat and curb predation by bears and lions.
Regional Wildlife Supervisor Rick King says currently, an unlimited number of mule deer licenses can be sold.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is pushing to allow baiting of big game animals to allow hunters to lure deer herds away from towns.
The Legislature's Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is sponsoring a bill that would allow the state Game Commission authority to bait deer into places where they could be killed safely.
Sen. Bruce Burns of Sheridan is co-chairman of the legislative committee. He says towns in the region would take advantage of the new law to allow hunters to thin out the herds of whitetail deer.
The Wyoming Department of Game and Fish wants hunters to properly dispose of animal carcasses in landfills and not in the wild.
A Wyoming man was bitten by a weak, old grizzly bear while hunting near Cody last week.
Denny Hammer of the local Game and Fish office says the bear was unable to hunt and had dragged discarded carcasses to a dense area of willows where it made a day bed. The hunter surprised it when he passed, and the bear bit his leg. The man remained hospitalized for two days. Hammer says Game and Fish trapped and euthanized the bear.